Well, well, well… another week is over and the world is still spinning. The ‘Gum Squad will be up in Hudson this weekend at Basilica SoundScape. The best way to describe Basilica would probably be “educated goths trying to have fun in the woods” and we can’t wait to join ‘em! Zola Jesus, Thou, Priests, JLIN, Moor Mother, Blanck Mass, and more will be there, and we’ll be posting some stuff about our favorite performances throughout the course of the weekend. Anyway, here are the five best songs of the week.
It almost seems wrong to put “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” on a best-songs list, mostly because it seems wrong to think of it as, simply put, a “song.” It’s something other than that. It’s like a monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey in song form. Released together as a single-song suite with “Angrboda,” “Mother Owl” covers 12 minutes, and it moves from one idea to the next with a relentless confidence, fitting in a couple of albums’ worth of moods and sounds into the span of one track. After the all-out black-metal fury of “Angrboda,” “Mother Owl” gets into ominous cinematic ambience and vengeful-god doom and, with the help of Swedish musician Anna Von Hausswolff, celestial gothic impressionism. How do you judge something like that against, like, the new Post Malone single? You don’t. But we did. And if you have to consider “Mother Owl” as a song, it’s a really good and weird song. –Tom
I don’t know if anyone liked Jessie Ware’s criminally underrated sophomore offering Tough Love more than me, but none of the early singles from her upcoming Glasshouse were blowing me away until “Alone” came along and blew me away. Appropriately enough, it’s a song about falling in love so hard that it knocks you off your feet, featuring a hook as powerful and attractive as whatever force is bowling Ware over. You won’t find many choruses catchier than “Say that you’re the one who’s taking me home!” Not with that melody sweeping briefly downward and then up into infinity as if launched from a ski jump. Especially not with that choir punctuating the last two syllables with little stabs of euphoria. And those chord changes? So simple, yet so sublime. That bulletproof refrain is the centerpiece of a warm, welcoming, digitally infused gospel piano love song that demonstrates expertise on every level, from songwriting to performance to production. I am head over heels for it. –Chris
Colin Stetson is a wizard. I’m convinced. That’s the only possible explanation for the sounds he manages to conjure out of his bass saxophone, swirling eddies of elemental noise and soulful cries that seem to come from the belly of some ancient beast. But magic is hard to control, and without an outside influence to rein him in, Stetson’s compositions can sprawl into abstract formlessness. That’s where BADBADNOTGOOD come in. A jazz combo with ties to the worlds of hip-hop and beat-driven indie, they bring pop-minded structure and accessibility to Stetson’s improvisational sound and fury. “Confessions Pt III” is a real song. And it’s a great song, an exploratory, expansive jam that ebbs and flows along with Stetson’s sax, building itself up into a melodic whirlwind and then receding back into its rhythmic undercurrent. It is, in short, magical. –Peter
You know those songs that just immediately barrel into you in the best way? The ones that move like a gale-force wind, flooring you or lifting you a few feet in the air as soon the melody hits? Makthaverskan’s “Eden” is one of those songs. The second track we’ve heard from their forthcoming III, it has plenty of the customary elements that people already love about the Swedish indie-pop outfit: the gentle post-punk propulsion, the shimmering, watery guitars. But, goddamn, that melody. The way frontwoman Maja Milner swoops into this thing as soon as the song kicks into gear is what elevates it into something stunning. Like the best dream-pop melodies, the vocal of “Eden” moves in beautiful yet unpredictable patterns, like Milner’s following the currents of the wind rather than adhering to the strictures of expected note progressions. And like the best dream-pop melodies, it’s instantly evocative yet inscrutable—all enigmatic emotion, allowing you to find whatever you need within it. –Ryan
There’s a vulnerable underbelly to Hundred Waters’ music that exposes itself when you focus on Nicole Miglis’ lyrics. “Wave To Anchor” is a song off of their brand new album Communicating, and it is one of the songs that best encompasses some of the themes heard throughout. “But who have I lived for?” is the central question, and it leads to a series of contemplations about the way we go about our daily lives and the people we surround ourselves with. Hundred Waters went from being a talented group of kids out of Gainesville, FL to living in LA and releasing material on Skrillex’s label, and this song finds its narrator at a crossroads and ready to accept a challenge. “A tidal wave but you’re waving back/ Maybe it’s make-believe/ You only see what you want to see/ It’s what you make it/ This is my wave to anchor.” Miglis delivers these lines surrounded by swirling disco synths and a backbeat so tight you will want to hear it magnified and bouncing off of bodies on a dance floor. That’s what this band’s music is so dexterous; it fits into quiet, lonely moments when you’re questioning everything about yourself as much as it does the wide-open, public moments where you know exactly who you are and exactly where you’re going. —Gabriela